The first step to home ownership is getting pre-approved for a home mortgage. Pre-approval let's you know how much home you can afford. This allows you to narrow your search and focus on homes that fit your financial criteria. It also shows sellers and their agent that you've been vetted and are willing and able to buy a home.
You can get pre-approved even if you're not ready to buy a home tomorrow. If you start the pre-approval process early, you can use it as a guideline to work on any flaws that may be holding you back from getting approved, such as credit reporting issues or debt.